Currently Reading

America The Beautiful

Suzanne is currently reading:

Craig is currently reading:

Posted in Current | Leave a comment

America the Beautiful by Dr. Ben Carson

Dr. Ben Carson is a respected neurosurgeon who made headlines when he criticized the path American is currently taking at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013.  Known for his motivational books and speeches, Carson has recently been speaking out against the Affordable Care Act and this country’s growing dependence on government programs.

In America the Beautiful, Carson addresses the good and the bad in America, and seeks to educate readers about history, personal responsibility and his ideas for a better government.

I found it a bit too simplistic.  I’ve heard most of the history and reasoning before – that’s not to say it’s bad, but his critics will find it easy to pick apart.  Dr. Carson is currently entertaining a bid for the Presidency.  With that in mind, it was helpful to learn his take on many issues.  And while I like Dr. Carson, there were areas in which we disagree.

Would he make a good President?  He is definitely, honest, intelligent and hard-working.  He would have to be a natural leader and have the ability to bring the various political forces together.  Time will tell if he gets the opportunity.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
224 pages

Posted in Non-Fiction, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara

Jeff Shaara is truly a master at depicting the intricacies of war.  In The Last Full Measure, he takes on the final battles of the Civil War, and what surely must be going through the heads of the most notable military figures of these conflicts.

This book is the last part of the trilogy that began with Jeff’s father, Michael Shaara.  And like the Pulitzer Prize winning parent, Jeff Shaara takes on the sequels to The Killer Angels with a thoroughly researched and highly exciting take on the events of this defining moment in American history.

There was something about this novel that fully gripped me in way that Gods and Generals did notFrom the beginning, Shaara helps you to understand the strategy that Grant lays out and also to understand that Lee does not fully comprehend Grant’s aim until it is too late:  not to destroy Richmond, but to destroy Lee.

Grant pounds and pounds at Lee’s army, until it is but a shell of what it once was.  There is a wonderful defining moment near the end, where Chamberlain is able to finally catch up with Lee, and rising a hilltop, looks down upon the Confederates at Appomattox:

“Then he understood what lay across this small valley in front of him.  It was not a division, it was not even a fighting force at all.  It was what remained of Lee’s army.”

Powerful stuff.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1998
560 pages


Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Centennial by James A. Michener


Centennial was my Colorado pick for the Around the USA in 52 Books Challenge.  And, I  might add, having read it, I have completed the challenge!  Yay for me!

Doubly exciting was fact that Centennial was a wonderful read.  As usual, Michener takes a place and goes far back into history, showing how it was formed geologically, and then how it was settled by people.  I especially enjoyed his depictions of the Arapaho and Comanche and how settlement of the area affected them.  There was a great deal about the treatment of Native Americans and Michener’s research is excellent here.

I also enjoyed hearing how cattle were brought into Colorado and the evolution of cattle ranching from Texas longhorns to Herefords and various breeding issues.  I’m not necessarily a huge bovine lover, but as a North Dakota native, you can’t help but have an interest in cattle.

And then, in the early 20th century, farming was attempted in the near desert areas.  They tilled and furrowed the land, stripping it of the sod which held the dirt in place.  Giant dust storms were created and thus Colorado became part of the dustbowl during the depression.  I remember asking my dad about that time, and he said he remembered shoveling huge piles of dust that blew in from these storms.

Also mentioned was the planting of sugar beets.  I live in sugar beet country, so I had no idea that Colorado also had that in common with North Dakota.  Michener’s tales of trying to hire workers to help thin the beets, was a fascinating look at the evolution of immigrants and migrant workers.

Overall, great story.  Not quite as good as Hawaii and Alaska, but that’s probably just a personal preference.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1976
909 pages

Posted in Historical Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Nation Rising by Kenneth C. Davis

A Nation Rising

What I thought would be an interesting history book,  entitled A Nation Rising:  Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America’s Hidden History, has turned out to be a political pundit’s adaptation of his worldview to various historical events.  In other words, there is little true history on these pages.

I will admit up front that I only read the introduction and the first 61 pages – the section about Aaron Burr’s trial.  (I couldn’t stomach reading any further!) From the beginning, when author Kenneth C. Davis claims that the election of Barack Obama was a “transforming moment” in American History.  I paused, then decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Truly, the election was merely an indicator of something that had already happened:  race is no longer an impediment to higher office.  But, maybe Davis was going to enlighten me beyond the usual partisan pap.

Nope.  The first chapter didn’t get any better.  Davis intimates that Aaron Burr was an all-around good guy, who seemed to have given Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton no reason to dislike the man.  The nastiness of campaign attacks in the 1800 election were clearly enough to create enmity all around.  But apparently Davis forgets all this.  Next he states that Jefferson used the power of the presidency to bring false treason charges against Burr, much like Bush punished Joseph Wilson for speaking out against the Iraq war by outing his CIA wife, Valerie Plame.  The only similarity here was likely that both Presidents were innocent of any wrongdoing in these cases.  The fact that Davis alters history by bringing in his own conjecture shows that this man is no historian.

If you love history give this one a miss.

0 stars (out of 5)
published in 2010294 pages

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

David And Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David And Goliath

David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
What are advantages?
What is the inverted U-shaped curve?
And why was David’s defeat of Goliath NOT surprising?
Gladwell, has written another page turner. Not only did I enjoy the stories- although some were very gruesome indeed, but I also appreciated how the theme of the book fit with “AntiFragile” and my interest in Systems and Complexity.
There are three sections to the book: The Advantages of Disadvantages (and the Disadvantages of Advantages), The Theory of Desirable Difficulty, and The Limities of Power. I even found the Notes in the Addendum are interesting.

320 pages

Continue reading

Posted in Biography, Economics, History, Humor, Non-Fiction, Politics, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Day The World Discovered The Sun by Mark Anderson

The Day The World Discovered The Sun

The Day The World Discovered The Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus
I viewed and photographed the 2012 Venus transit, so this book caught my attention. It  deals with the 1761 and 1769 Venus transit of the sun. Why was this important? In 1761, little was known about our world; even less about our solar system. By using some careful measurements of angles, timing the transit, and some complex trigonometry, scientists of the day could measure the distance to the Sun and all the visible planets. Those who were enlightened at the time, including a couple monarchs, became quite excited by the prospect. There was a friendly competition between the countries. Yet it was far more difficult that it sounds. Travel was a dangerous proposition at best and the tools for measuring time were far from accurate. Anderson has written an enjoyable book, filled with adventure, science, and history.

304 pages

Continue reading

Posted in Adventure, History, Science, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment